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CAAP News Update
Longtime Community Action Leader, Tay Waltenbaugh, retires after more than 29 years of service
Tay Waltenbaugh, Chief Executive Office of Westmoreland Community Action (WCA), is retiring. WCA was organized in 1980. The agency is a private, non-profit corporation serving Greensburg County, a rural county with a population of 362,000, just 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. Their main office is in Greensburg, PA.
Tay’s lifework in Human Services began at Adelphio Village. Five years later, he transitioned into a role at Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Another five years passed before he arrived at Westmoreland Community Action where Tay would spend the next 29 years growing his organization into a very successful Community Action Agency.
Tay has led the growth of his agency from a few programs, a staff of 50, and a budget of $1M, to 26 programs, a staff of 200, and a budget of $14M. In 2006, and again in 2011 and 2014, Westmoreland Community Action received the Seal of Excellence from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO). WCA now serves more than 6,000 individuals each year.
Recently, Tay shared the following message with CAAP. “I want to say thank you to all of my Board Members, presidents, and other officers over the years, who have given me an opportunity to take chances, do great things, and make mistakes. Community Action is a rare breed in Human Services with the forethought and initiative to respond to all needs while drastically improving our counties, communities, and families. I have always held CAAs in the highest regard. Thank you for your efforts and support.”
Tay will serve in his current role as CEO until February 28th, 2019 and then work part-time for up to a year at WCA.
On behalf of the CAAP board and all the PA Community Action leadership, we wish Tay the best and much happiness in retirement. We will let Tay have the last word, as he writes to the CAAP staff … “What a run!!!”
CAAP will host a standalone annual conference in 2019
For the past two years, the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), the Alliance for Nonprofit Resources (ANR), and CAAP have hosted a collaborative conference. CAAP, PANO, and ANR have enjoyed a wonderful partnership! We feel that the PA Community Action network benefited greatly from the friendships we forged among a diverse group of mission-driven organizations.
Due to a growing demand for Community Action specific content, the CAAP board of directors has decided to reinstate a standalone Community Action Conference. Although workshop topics will be useful to all nonprofit organizations, the majority of session content will be geared towards staff at every level of the Community Action Agency.
Next year’s conference highlights include 20 content-rich workshops, two nationally recognized keynote speakers, great food, an evening of fun, and of course the main event will be the 22nd Annual Self-Sufficiency Awards.
Save the Date! CAAP’s Annual Conference will take place on October 7th, 8th, and 9th, 2019 at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel. The conference and workshop agenda will be available early next year. We look forward to seeing you all in Harrisburg next fall!
Winter Is Coming: What It Means for Low-Income Americans
In cold climates, the onset of winter can cause additional financial stress and have health implications for the wellbeing of residents. This is particularly true for low-income families who may not be able to afford heat or appropriate clothing to protect themselves from freezing temperatures. 44% of US households, or about 50 million Americans, are considered low-income and likely struggle to balance and prioritize basic needs such as adequate heating and cooling in extreme temperatures and food expenditures.
For many families, the winter months often come down to eat or heat. Is it better to spend money to meet basic food needs or to cut food spending to afford heat? Most low-income families cut food and nutrition spending during the winter months in order to afford heating and energy costs. A 2015 study found that 25 million US households were skipping food and medicine needs in order to pay energy expenses. Parents will even go without a meal in order to ensure their children have enough to eat during these cold-weather budgetary shocks.
During the winter months there is increased demand for various social services such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and homeless shelters as people face high energy costs and dangerous outdoor conditions. Those without adequate shelter and heat face dangerous, even deadly, conditions. In fact, it is estimated that cold weather is responsible for 1.3% of total deaths in the US annually, and cold-weather deaths are 20 times more common than heat related deaths. Death rates due to cold temperatures are even higher in communities with more low-income families that lack adequate shelter. One study estimates that the cold is responsible for more deaths each year than leukemia, homicide, and chronic liver disease. Another study found that cold conditions can cause developmental delays and other health complications in children.
Clearly, winter poses serious problems for millions of low-income Americans. However, there are programs that help households reduce or better manage energy costs throughout the year. LIHEAP assists low-income families in paying their heating bills based on household size, income, and fuel type. They also offer crisis grants for emergency situations. Another program, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), helps low-income households reduce their energy consumption and costs through weatherization updates that also ensure the health and safety of residents. Proper weatherization improvements can save a household an average of $283 or more annually.
The are many programs and services like LIHEAP and WAP available to help low-income families manage their spending and safety during the cold weather. But despite the existence and success of these programs, households are still struggling to make ends meet. In fact, due to limited funding, LIHEAP is only able to help 20% of eligible households, meaning 80% of qualified households are left struggling to pay their bills. Even when energy assistance is received, restrictions often limit the amount and types of assistance each household can receive.
The fact that low-income families must make tradeoffs during cold weather in order to make room in their budget for heating is simply not acceptable, yet the current administration has tried to eliminate LIHEAP twice since the 2016 election. Heating is a basic necessity during the winter months, and affording it should not come at the cost of another basic human need like food, nutrition, and/or medication. All people need safe shelter in dangerous conditions regardless of income and without sacrificing other aspects of their wellbeing. Congress needs to protect these programs and better support our low-income families. This is not just a matter of income, it is a matter of public safety.
Bridging the Gap Between SNAP & Medical Assistance Enrollment in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, there are almost 2 million citizens who receive medical assistance and qualify for SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program). Out of that 2 million, only 62% receive both SNAP and medical assistance. That missing 38% (740,000 people) is more commonly referred to as the SNAP gap. This gap highlights the amount of people in Pennsylvania that qualify for both SNAP and medical assistance, but only receive medical assistance. When SNAP benefits go unused, millions of government dollars are lost, and a significant number of Pennsylvanians miss out on necessary resources that could improve their financial stability and health.
Despite the SNAP gap, PA SNAP is one of the better administered programs in the country. Annually, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), gives performance bonuses to states in multiple categories for exemplary SNAP administration. Due to the state’s 2017 performance, Pennsylvania was awarded an $11 million performance bonus from the USDA. That performance bonus included $2 million for the 5th best program access rate at 90%, and over $2.7 million for 2nd best SNAP application timeliness rate at 98%.
There are ways Pennsylvania could use their performance bonus from the USDA to diminish the state’s SNAP gap. For example, the state could streamline their medical assistance applications. Other states like Colorado have begun putting “I want SNAP too” check boxes on their online medical assistance applications. If Pennsylvania implemented this improved function, it would ensure that less people go hungry and more get the benefits they need.
Another solution to close the SNAP gap is to authorize telephonic signatures for SNAP. Pennsylvania has already implemented Medicaid renewal by phone, meaning they have the technology to allow SNAP renewal by phone. In Pennsylvania, SNAP recipients must interview to renew their benefits. By allowing these interviews to occur over the phone, renewing both SNAP and Medicaid can be streamlined into one process. In conjunction with permitting telephonic signatures for SNAP, Pennsylvania’s SNAP administration could use their performance bonus to boost call center staffing and infrastructure. By investing in call centers, Pennsylvania can ensure that more eligible SNAP recipients receive their benefits. Additionally, the state will continue to improve their high-performance results.
Over 2.8 million Pennsylvanians benefit yearly from medical assistance, whereas 1.8 million Pennsylvanians benefit from SNAP. Given this disparity, hundreds of thousands of people who access medical assistance but not SNAP is a problem that can be remedied with smart investments using the USDA bonus money. Food and nutrition are basic human needs. By supporting and pushing our state’s administration to use their federal bonus on infrastructure improvements, we can make sure that Pennsylvanians will not go hungry.